Assessing the damage done

  • Republicans and ObamaCare (Wall Street Journal March 23, 2010):

    A new President nearly always gets what he wants on his top legislative priority, especially when he has such big majorities in Congress to work with. Republicans nonetheless managed to keep their Members together, turn public opinion against the bill despite nearly unanimous media support for it, and in the end came a few votes short. They would have won if Mr. Obama and Nancy Pelosi hadn’t been so willing to put so many of their Members at risk by pushing a partisan program and flouting normal Congressional rules.

    The GOP’s goal now should first be to remove some of the uglier parts of the bill in Senate reconciliation. Then they need to focus on taking back as many seats as possible this fall. Rather than publicly crowing that ObamaCare will deliver them the House—a hard task and a risky expectations game—they’d do better to concentrate on continuing to educate the public about what ObamaCare is going to do to insurance premiums, federal deficits, taxes and the quality of medical care.

    Many Republicans are already calling for “repeal” of ObamaCare, and that’s fine with us, though they should also be honest with voters about the prospects. The GOP can’t repeal anything as long as Mr. Obama is President, even if they take back Congress in November. That will take two large electoral victories in a row. What they can do now is take credit for fighting on principle, hold Democrats accountable for their votes and the consequences, and pledge if elected in November to stop cold Mr. Obama’s march to ever-larger government.

  • Pro-life Democrats, R.I.P., by Wiliam McGurn. (Wall Street Journal):

    … few accept the idea that the executive order really adds anything. In fact, on this point National Right to Life, the Catholic bishops and the Susan B. Anthony List are largely on the same page as Planned Parenthood. As are the pro-life Republican leader Mr. Smith and the pro-choice Democrat Diana DeGette of Colorado.

    Planned Parenthood calls it a “symbolic gesture,” and says “it is critically important to note that it does not include the Stupak abortion ban.” Rep. DeGette, who screamed so loudly when the Stupak amendment passed, said she had no problem with the executive order because “it doesn’t change anything.” She’s right, because an executive order cannot change the law.

    Take the $7 billion in new federal funding for the community health centers. As my former White House colleague Yuval Levin points out, all that has to happen for these federal dollars to start flowing for abortion is for NARAL Pro-Choice America to sponsor a woman demanding an abortion. The center will initially deny funding, citing the executive order. The woman will then sue, arguing that abortion is a part of health care. Given the legal precedents, and the lack a specific ban in the actual legislation, the courts will likely agree.

    That is part of what makes the consequences of Mr. Stupak’s surrender so far reaching. Not only has he opened the door to this kind of mischief, he has encouraged those who want to get rid of the Hyde amendment itself, which for decades has prevented federal funds from paying for abortions.

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